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An Interview With Empath, And 16 Shows This Week

Empath Thursday at Gasa Gasa

Thursday night Gasa Gasa has an excellent show lined up with Empath and T-Rextasy opening for main band Mannequin P—y.  T-Rextasy is the “official” Marc Bolan and T-Rex cover band, while Mannequin P—y is a Philadelphia-based punk group who have just released their excellent third record – Patience.  Supporting Mannequin P—y on this tour are their fellow Philadelphians the experimental noise ensemble Empath.  Last year Empath put out the excellent EP Liberating Guilt and Fear and have followed that with the recent release of their debut record Active Listening:  Night on Earth.  I am a big fan of this music.  There is a tight, playful complexity to their sound that rewards repeat listening without punishing the casual listener.  I caught up with the band by phone to talk a bit about their process, influences and songwriting ahead of Thursday’s show.  I asked the group to talk a bit about how the songs come together since they possess both a firm core of pop music but also a striking refusal to sync with the listener’s expectations.  The speakers are Catherine Elicson (singer and guitarist), Garrett Koloski (drums), Emily Shanahan (keyboards) and Randall Coon (synths).  This was a fun interview because I had the full band on the line but it did make for a lot of joking and crosstalk as we all tried to say everything we had on our minds.


Catherine:       I think there is a little bit of resistance to do something that is totally obvious.

Garrett:            I also think it’s like a cool, in ways, most of these songs are just feeling pop songs or something.

Catherine:       The songs that are written…on my acoustic guitar in my room. So they kinda start as just pure lyrics on the melody and stuff. And then they become really warped and then it opens it up to getting ideas about making it sound really heavy.  It’s the collision of the pop aspects and wanting it to be a part-punk song or something.

Garrett:            Yeah. Because I also feel like Randall and I just kind of bastardize it.


On the whole this is a great description of Empath’s sound.  Your ear will keep looking for the familiar and the find a surprising twist.  Randall and Garrett refuse to let these songs swing in the traditional sense by constantly disrupting expectations.  While the songs themselves are relatively locked there is a lot of improvisation between the performances as they string one into another.


Garrett:            I don’t know, I think that Empath is like a live band. Our recordings translate well but I just feel like, we’re just fun to watch.

Emily:              We don’t ever stop playing. But it’s not like stage banter. I don’t particularly like doing that. I don’t like when others do it.

Garrett:            Yeah. Because all the songs bleed into each other I think that’s another element of us improvising. It’s how-

Emily:              -we transition.

Garrett:            Yeah.

Emily:              Then we’re all kinda reading each other as it’s happening.


It was clear during the conversation that the synergy these artists display on their records extends into their personal relationships and beyond.  This will be a great evening of music in the middle of a relatively quiet month, make sure you’re there.  Check out the video for “Hanging Out of Cars” below.


Around Town This Week

Tonight the Static Masks are at Gasa Gasa and The Pinettes Brass Band are at Bullet’s Sports Bar while Reggie Scanlan, Uganda Roberts, BIlly Iuso & Eddie Christmas play the early show at the SideBar as part of the Scatterjazz Series before James Singleton and James Evans take the late shift.  Tomorrow, BoomBox plays One Eyed Jacks and the Bad Penny Pleasuremakers are at The Starlight while Gal Holiday and The Honky Tonk Review are at Three Muses.  Sunday, Germaine Bazzle is at The Jazz Playhouse and Wolfman Washington’s Trio hits the Maple Leaf.  Monday, Arsene DeLay and Charlie Wooton are at the Backroom at Buffa’s while John Boutte takes the early set at d.b.a.  Tuesday, Queen + Adam Lambert are at the Smoothie King Center – drop by Ralph’s on Park on your way for a drink in the bar while Joe Krown plays piano.  Wednesday, the Treme Brass Band plays Cafe Istanbul and the Jazz Vipers play The Maison.    Thursday, Mannequin Pussy plays Gasa Gasa with Empath and T-Rextasy while Little Freddie King plays d.b.a. and Cole Williams Band takes the late show at the SideBar.


To Listen This Week


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